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What Do You Have a Taste For?

As the green leaves transform their colors every fall and each season brings with it changes, the same can be said for taste. How many of us have heard that porters and stouts taste better during the cold seasons, or light lagers and hefeweizens during warmer times? IMG_0195While it may sound logical, it isn’t necessarily true. I know plenty of people who eat ice cream all year long (not me). Speaking of ice cream, have you ever tried a porter chocolate flavor? I have, and it’s delicious. It’s probably the only flavor I can eat any time of the year.
While there are recommended guidelines for the temperature a certain style of beer should be at for optimal taste, there are no rules when it comes to what you should be tasting and enjoying at any time of the year. Some beer drinkers stick to one beer all year long (e.g. my father-in-law); others like to change with the seasons (pumpkin and Oktoberfest beers dominate now as we will quickly move to winter recommendations); while others will try anything anytime and enjoy the pleasure of tasting in the name of variety and experimentation. Are these people bold? Not necessarily. Imagine going to a beer festival where your head spins from the number of breweries to the wide range of craft beers available all at once. Where to start, which to choose?SHOOTOUT

Whenever I attend an event or tasting, it’s always recommended to start with the lighter hopped (lower IBU’s) beers and end with the hoppier ones (higher IBU’s). Some recommend starting light colored beers to the darkest, which can be tricky since a beer’s color is an indication of the malts used and not necessarily hoppy. When I used to provide tastings, I’d start with the lagers (including pilsners), then the amber ales, pale ales and then IPA’s. You also have other styles such as double/imperial IPA’s, which should definitely be tasted last since the hoppiness will affect your taste buds. With other types of beers like lambics, sours, experimental blends and darker beers, tasting beer can really be like figuring out a jigsaw puzzle. When in doubt, always ask someone at these events, and they will guide you in the right direction. Beer stores and grocery chains regularly have free beer tastings so take advantage of their expertise.IMG_8071

If you think porters and stouts are too heavy in the summer time, think again. Wynwood Brewing Company out of Miami, Florida won last year’s Great American Beer Festival’s Gold medal for their porter. It’s one of their flagship beers and Miamians can’t get enough of it. Note: if you haven’t been to South Florida, there’s only one season – summer (except for the occasional 2 or 3 days of 60 degree weather which is considered cold). While I don’t bring a stout with me to the beaches and lakes of Upstate New York in the summer time, I most definitely enjoy them year round, along with many other styles.stiegl-brauwelt-verkostungskeller-bierprobe

Another interesting thing about taste is how personal it is and how our tastes change over time for just about anything – music, food, activities, and of course beer. In my younger days, I didn’t prefer cocktails but didn’t know what beer to choose. Craft beer wasn’t a ‘thing’ yet, so I mostly stuck with light lagers. I do remember enjoying one particular Belgian beer during those times. As time passed I sampled more and got a formal beer education. Since then, my tastes have dramatically changed. Perhaps in part it’s my taste buds changing on me, and in part just having a taste for something in particular. Just a few years ago, sours were on my no-no list; now I can’t get enough of them. That one Belgian beer I liked in my 20s – I no longer enjoy. I don’t drink anything that says “Light” or “Lite” when that was my m.o. Our taste for beer can change from day to day, just like food. Today you’re in the mood for Italian food, tomorrow Mexican, the day after, who knows? Yesterday I was enjoying a nice Canadian pale ale, but today I think I’m in the mood for a local amber ale. Changing tastes can be like changing moods (or not – remember my father-in-law?). The rules to tasting beer are there are no hard and fast rules. Sure, there’s guidelines for how and in what order to taste craft beer, but that’s exactly what they are – guidelines. So the next time you pick up a 12-pack, instead of getting 12 of one kind, try a sampler pack and play with your taste buds! Cheers!

Gloria Rakowsky